How to be a whistleblower and keep your job
© The Register, London, Posted: 20/11/2000 at 13:22 GMT

Ever wonder why The Reg continually comes up with scoops and insider information when our rivals seem content with rewriting press releases? Quite simple really. Trusted sources and, more and more frequently, from readers.

However, while we have always been discreet and careful to keep our sources anonymous, recent changes in UK law makes this task more difficult. We're talking of course about the RIP Act. Under the Act, police, security services and the like are legally entitled to monitor any information moving about within the UK. This is no great concern in itself - IT stories are, let's be frank, rarely threatening to the security of the nation.

However, the new law has given employers extensive rights to read and monitor employee email and phone calls. Also, big companies are more tech-literate than ever. Because of these two changes in mindset, it is crucially important for whistleblowers and sources of confidential information to be aware of what can be done to trace suspected leaks.

Hence this brief guide to keeping out of the eye of powerful companies - it's not perfect or foolproof but it's a damn sight better than not doing it.

Initial contact

If you are contacting us for the first time with the intention of handing over some damaging and/or confidential information, for God's sake don't do it at work. Unless you want to fork out £50 for a phone scrambler (and subsequently draw attention to yourself), DO NOT call direct from work. Telephone logs are easily produced and checked and if only one person has called our phone number, then he or she is likely to face serious problems.

Email is also easily checked. Hotmail will not give you any security - network surveillance tools are way beyond that now. Again, the point is not that you will send a message and the boys in black will arrive at your desk five minutes later, it's that if a company becomes suspicious it will launch an enquiry and work backwards through email logs.

Private keys - PGP etc ( - will stop a company being able to tell WHAT you've written but not the fact that you have sent us an email. If you really have to have to send us an email from work, the best thing to do is use a Hushmail account. We have set up a secure email address: [email protected] for just this purpose.

This is a fairly obscure email address and if you set up a Hushmail account ( or, then the message will be indecipherable. However, again, retrospective analysis by a company will put anyone using a secure email tool under suspicion - until, that is, everyone uses it (which won't happen anytime soon). We also get a few network managers reading the site, so the address won't exactly be top secret either.

Plus, if your company is really paranoid it will have software on your network that will be able to read every keystroke you make, so all of this is academic.

So, the basic lesson is: if you think you could get reprimanded/sacked for the information you plan to send us, send it to us from your home PC. The level of security you choose to use from there is up to you.

And for those really dangerous secrets

Let's suppose you have some top secret information which will mean immediate dismissal and loss of livelihood but you feel strongly enough to blow the whistle you'd be wise to take some extra precautions - especially if it could be deemed illegal (which is not difficult under the new RIP laws).

We would recommend buying a copy of Freedom ( It'll cost you $49.95 but then that's nothing compared to loss of a salary. Freedom will basically mask your identity while you are on the Net. The company behind it - Zero Knowledge Systems - basically pings your IP packets through loads of anonymous servers and makes it nigh on impossible for anyone but the most determined investigator to track you down. That said, use Freedom and your profile will be raised.

Equally, if you're just paranoid/sick of spam, you may find $50 a fair price to pay for privacy.

They're onto you

If you are British, or to be more precise, Your home is a risky place to store or send confidential information - if your employer suspects that you are the mole. There is a draconian piece of legislation in place called an Anton Pillar order. Rarely used - but they are used - Anton Pillar orders are obtained in secret, and give companies the power to raid suspects' homes (it's the police what does the raiding) and seize anything they consider relevant to their case. The PC and the filing cabinet will be the first things to go in the back of the police van for inspection.

Smell the coffee

Alternatively, go to a cyber café (but watch out for those cameras) and use a machine there. This isn't a bad method - after all, when 15-year-old maths prodigy Sufiah Yusof disappeared for a few weeks, contacting regularly her parents via email, the police were unable to track her down. It was eventually her continual appearance at the Click N' Link Internet café in Bournemouth and the fact that her face was all over the national newspapers which led the café owner to contact the police.

You, of course, will be using the café far less frequently and will go to different cafes if the correspondence stretches on.

Chatrooms - just say no

Don't go badmouthing your employer/ex-employer in Internet chatrooms. You'll get mad - but chances are they'll get even when they subpoena AOL, MSN, Yahoo! etc. for your name, address etc. If you have to vent steam in public, at very least, use a free email account, and give a false name and address, won't you. There is little reason, except for your own recklessness, why the audit trail should reach you.

Remember too, that Yahoo! (Nazi memorabila, Yeah!) and the like may spout all they like about freedom of speech. But they do not really believe in this guff. They are content aggregators - not content providers- and they will sell you down the river as soon as spit.

On the other hand, newspapers (Americans are particularly good at this) and publications like The Register will do their utmost to protect their sources. Because that's part of the deal.

And for Colombian drug dealers?

Not that you'd want to call us anyway - The Reg maintains the media's blatantly hypocritical attitude towards drugs - do as I say -

Well, we suggest you set up your own ISP offshore (£40,000 should do it). Then use heavily encrypted messages under different codenames. For vocal communication, attach a phone scrambler to a totally unsuspected phone line and make sure there's another one at the other end, or perhaps buy a pay-as-you-go phone and use it exclusively and for a limited time to make contact.

That should cover it.

Remember kids: just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. ®

Tribal coalition ponders land purchases in forum
Group seeks to save cultural heritage from development

By © 2000
The Desert Sun
November 17th, 2000

PALM SPRINGS -- A coalition of desert-based American Indian tribes is working to take back something they already consider their own -- the land.

Representatives from the Chemehuevis, Serrano, Cahuilla, Hualapai and Paiute tribes of California and Arizona met here Thursday to discuss purchasing land that is culturally and spiritually significant to American Indians and how to infuse native beliefs into mainstream environmental policy.

“Now, it is time to take back some of these lands,” said William Callaway, a member of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians near Indio, “to save our land, our legacy, our cultural ways.”

The gathering is the first of its kind for the Native American Land Conservancy. The talks continue through today, with a field trip on Saturday to Old Woman Mountains, east of Joshua Tree National Park.

Organized in 1997 on the Coachella-area reservation of the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, the group hopes to thwart the destruction of land features it considers sacred to American Indians.

The group was involved in purchasing land from logging interests in northern Washington that includes a redwood forest. But its primary concern is the desert Southwest.

“Our lands extended thousands of miles,” Richard Milanovich, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, said of life in the Coachella Valley and surrounding areas before European settlement. “We lost what we had because they wanted it.”

Tribal leaders and native environmentalists plan to begin by targeting land they feel is threatened in the Colorado and Mojave deserts.

Conservancy organizers also hope to assist Indians’ efforts to preserve oral tradition through language and song.

“Culture is one of the biggest things we’ve lost,” said Joe Benitez, a Cabazon elder. “We need to have our elders ... teach their children the values of our culture.”

But even as American Indians everywhere are stepping up efforts to assert sovereign rights, incorporating tribal spiritual beliefs into off-reservation land-use strategies remains a tough sell to environmental policymakers.

“That is one of the hardest areas -- the clash of science and culture,” said Michael Kellner, environmental resources manager for the Agua Caliente. “It is just a matter of ... being able to see both sides.”

Milanovich cited the Agua Caliente’s role as one of the managers of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument as an example of increased participation by American Indians.

Jim Kenna, Palm Springs and south coast field manager for the Bureau of Land Management, called the tribe’s role in the monument “groundbreaking.”

For the first time with a national monument, a tribe has equal standing with the other governments who manage the area, Kenna said.

Environmentalists said local tribes continue to be good land stewards, but added that native land practices don’t always fit into mainstream environmentalism.

Jeff Morgan, local vice chairman for The Tahquitz Group of the Sierra Club, said the national club is “totally opposed” to some native practices, such as whale hunting in the Pacific Northwest, or some Arizona Indians’ methods of gathering eagle feathers for religious purposes.

“These things, I don’t think there will ever be any agreement,” he said. “It is a very broad issue.”

Kellner said the perception that American Indian tribes do not honor environmental laws or construction codes when building on reservations also colors the public’s opinion of native environmentalism.

“Most people think we just go out and build a casino ... without any agreements whatsoever,” Kellner said. “That is a problem that happens all the time.”

He encouraged tribes to cooperate with other local governments to sign zoning agreements and to remind their neighbors that federal environmental laws include reservations.

Mary Belardo, chairwoman of the Torres-Martinez Band of Desert Cahuilla Indians, said misperceptions about native use of endangered species is an example of why American Indians should speak up on environmental policy.

“It is different if we get a whaler that is only catching whales for profit. It is sacred for (American Indians) that do that. Everything is done the right way,” Belardo said. “I understand why the non-Indian world would have difficulty feeling that. But it doesn’t make it right.”

Colombia dollar factory busted

Counterfeiters cranked out millions in phony bills
Gen. Alfonso Arellano of the Colombian National Police, examines counterfeit
U.S. dollars near the town of Versalles on Thursday.


VERSALLES, Colombia, Nov. 18 -  Its entrance hidden in a thick grove of banana trees, criminals in an underground room cranked out millions of counterfeit U.S. dollars - possibly more than $1 billion - before police working with the U.S. Secret Service cracked the biggest-ever counterfeiting operation in Colombia.

DISPLAYING INGENUITY and daring, the counterfeiters dug out the room in a mountainside of the verdant Andes of western Colombia, lined its walls with cinderblock and brought in fluorescent lighting and a printing press. It all ended Thursday with a bust that highlights a problem in a country better known for drug trafficking. According to the U.S. Embassy, one-third of counterfeit money circulating in the United States is made in Colombia.

Some $22 million in Colombian-made counterfeit dollars have been seized in the United States since 1985.

"This, unfortunately, is a national talent, because these are self-trained counterfeiters who produce (money) with a great degree of perfection," national police Gen. Alfonso Arellano said.

Anyone passing within a few feet of the banana trees in the isolated farming and coffee-growing region would have no way of knowing that a multimillion-dollar cottage industry - and a subterranean one at that - was in operation.

Journalists flown to the site aboard police helicopters late Thursday, within hours of the room's discovery, saw $3 million in bogus bills lying in stacks on tables and hanging by clips from string stretched across the 15-by-20-foot room. Cans of ink and dye stood on shelves mounted on the walls. Metal plates from which the bills were imprinted were
scattered on tables.

Watch a selection of NBC News reports on the U.S. war against Colombia's drug cartels.

A policeman turned on the black printing press, which clanked into life and began spitting out sheets of $100 bills. A portable fan provided ventilation for the humid room.

"Everything you need to make dollars is here," said Arellano, the police general. "And this room, which is like a bunker, was built with sophisticated engineering techniques."

A task force of 100 Colombian police, assisted by U.S. Secret Service agents, spent a year and a half trying to find the moneymaking factory and finally discovered it after infiltrating undercover officers into the counterfeiting gang, Arellano said Friday.

When heavily armed police swooped in on Thursday, they found one man, Gerardo Ardila, in the underground room and arrested him, Arellano said. Ardila was believed to be a lower-level worker.

Authorities were searching for the alleged mastermind, Ramiro Sepulveda, a previously convicted Colombian counterfeiter. U.S. Secret Service agents have been tracking him for 20 years.

Sepulveda got out of jail six months ago, following a 1998 arrest for counterfeiting U.S., Spanish and Tahitian currency, a Secret Service agent said on condition of anonymity. He said Sepulveda was considered "a craftsman" and one of Colombia's top currency counterfeiters.

The Secret Service traced phony bills circulating in the United States back to the Colombian operation, the agent said.

The underground operation was capable of printing $3 million per week
and had probably been doing so for about 10 years - producing more than 1 billion bogus dollars, Arellano said. The Secret Service agent said the dollar factory appears to have been operating for at least two years. 

The bills, in denominations of 100s, 50s and 20s, look genuine at first glance. But anyone familiar with U.S. currency can see on closer inspection that something is wrong. The texture of the paper doesn't feel right - it's slightly glossy - and the printing looks fake.

Police said much of the bogus money was probably destined for neighboring Ecuador, which officially switched to the dollar in September as the country's official currency. Ecuadorean officials had predicted counterfeit dollars from Colombia would flood Ecuador because many locals would not be able to recognize fake bills.

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